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TSTC Harlingen to Launch State's First Competency-based Learning Program

Thursday, June 27, 2013

MechatronicsTexas State Technical College is recruiting students for the state's first Competency-based Learning Program. Beginning this fall, TSTC will accept 32 students, half for day classes and another half for evening classes, into the Industrial Systems Technology Program in the growing field of Mechatronics.

"We are looking for people who have experience working in electrical or automated systems. Displaced workers or veterans with industrial skills may be good candidates for this program," said Program Coordinator Adam Hernandez.

This is the result of Governor Rick Perry's announcement of a Skilled Workforce Initiative in November of last year. The goal: develop a program that would cut the time necessary for a student to earn a certificate and join the workforce.

"We have designed a program that focuses on a student's mastery of real job skills at their own pace, rather than just spending time in a classroom during a semester," said Provost Adam Hutchison, who led the TSTC System-wide project. "Students won't spend unnecessary time in classes reviewing information that they've already mastered, either through past job experience or military service."

Hutchison and other TSTC leaders have been working closely with state government, education and manufacturing leaders to match up learning activities with industry-validated competencies. As students master the individual competencies they can move through the program at their own speed.

"In addition to approval from our state and regional accreditors, the skills that a student learns in this program are tied to real tasks done on the job," Hutchison continued. "This curriculum has been reviewed and approved by the Texas Association of Manufacturers, who represents the companies that are hiring our graduates."

Students will be eligible for a Level I Certificate offered by the Mechatronic Technology Department in the Engineering Division. Traditionally this is a two-semester program, but through competency-based learning it can be completed in less time.

Perry visited the TSTC campus last fall to make the groundbreaking announcement and praised the men and women of the skilled workforce in Texas as the "real drivers of the Texas economy."

Perry explained that the biggest demand for skilled workers was in the manufacturing sector and noted that job demand has doubled in the past three years. The demand is expected to grow by 10 percent by 2020, Perry said.

"The framework for technical training is now put in place to enable workers to earn technical certification fast and make it affordable," Perry said in November. "This will cut the time necessary to earn a certificate without sacrificing one iota of quality."

The Competency-based Learning Program targets specific groups like veterans, displaced workers and career-focused high school graduates. The program also removes any roadblocks a potential worker might face in finding a job that calls for specific qualifications. If this TSTC model is successful it could be applied to other college programs with high job demands.

"Competency-based learning cuts down time, minimizes cost and doesn't force anyone to sit through courses they already know," Perry said in November.

To register or for more information, contact Adam Hernandez at 956-364-4982 or 956-364-4633. You can also contact him via email at adam.hernandez@tstc.edu.

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